19th July 2023

Positive Peace.

As you get older memory plays tricks with you; there are things you know but somehow they are at the back of your mind and difficult to recall. That was the situation that I faced when looking for the word to describe a temporary peace: truce, ceasefire, amnesty and then it came, armistice – all words for something less than the great Shalom described in scripture. But you may say that given the horrific dimensions of modern warfare, if we are allowed to call it that, such developments are better than nothing. Then again the Greek word for peace, eirene, as also the Latin pax, both derived from the names of appropriate goddesses, are essentially negative in definition – signifying a certain political stability secured by the control of conflict and violence.

By contrast Shalom opens a window on a more complete social tapestry embracing peacefulness, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, tranquillity and all that makes for the wellbeing of both humankind and the whole created world in which God has placed us. This is why the World Council of Churches has for years promoted a programme concerned to campaign for ‘Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation [JPIC]’, for all belong together in God’s Shalom, which means that peace cannot be bought by allowing injustice to continue, nor can it be secured by an escalation of armaments that puts the cosmos itself at risk. Shalom is so much bigger.

But Shalom is gift as well as goal so be comforted by Jesus’ parting words to his disciples: which was repeatedly, ‘Shalom be with you’ [John 20]. Receive it and practise it.

John Briggs